Vaccinate. No Exemptions.

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According to the World Health Organization, between 93-95% of the population needs to be vaccinated against measles in order to reach herd immunity.  In Colorado, 88.7% of Kindergartners are vaccinated against measles.  How did this happen?  It could be the decades of misinformation built upon a factually false study.  It could be the echo chambers that social media creates.  In the end, it doesn’t matter how it happened.  It must be fixed.

The simple answer is to make vaccinations mandatory in order for a kid to enter school.  In theory, this is already the case in Colorado.  In practice, exemptions have allowed parents to skirt the law–creating the dangerous situation we have today.  Kyle Mullica, a representative in the Colorado legislature, is drafting a bill that will take away these exemptions.  Opposition by the minority anti-vaxxers will be fierce, but irrelevant.

Unlike many other debates in public discourse, there are not two sides to the this issue.    They can argue that vaccines cause autism.  They are wrong.  They can argue that vaccines are not safe.  They are wrong.  They can argue that forcing vaccines upon people is immoral.  In reality, you must only vaccinate your child if you choose to send them to public school.

The state government must do its part to keep our kids safe.  Current law does not do that.  We must eradicate all non-medical exemptions.  By doing nothing, we will only continue to see our vaccination rates drop and our outbreaks increase in magnitude.

 

Reflecting on my 20s

On March 17th, 2019, I will enter my 30s.  As my 20s wind to a close, I can’t help but reflect on how much has happened over the last decade.  In order to prepare myself for the decade to come, I want to reflect on the time gone by.  I gathered my favorite moments and consolidated them here.

Wrote my first novel

I graduated college

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Got rejected from the Peace Corps

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Substitute Taught in dozens of schools in Greeley, Windsor, and Fort Collins

Ran for School Board–Lost

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Move out of my parents house

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Wrote a novel

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Voted for Obama 

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Met the Woman of my dreams then promptly left for Peace Corps

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Spent 13 months learning a language, interacting with a new culture, and teaching

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Moved to New York with the woman of my dreams

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Started my Career

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Got Engaged

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Got married

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Started brewing

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Voted for Bernie

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Got Hudson

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Moved back to Colorado

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Got pregnant

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Bought a House

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Got Titan

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Found out my unborn son had Gastroschisis

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Welcomed my son into the world–spent three weeks in the NICU

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Laid a penny floor and created my home brewery

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Now, onward to my thirties…

 

The Weekend at Last

It hasn’t been an especially long week, but I found myself excessively tired this morning.  After doing our morning with the young kids, I was glad to be on weekend.  Now I get a day and a half off before doing the intense last week of work here at the orphanage.  It’s been a great month for me–full of reflection and work and writing.  I have come up with several ideas for how to utilize my time in the Peace Corps.  Most of it requires wifi for faster internet.  So September is going to be an interesting month for me–looking for a new house and setting up the internet while I start working with the kids.

Today is the third day of The 50-Day Memory Challenge.  I wrote about last summer–reflecting on the massive fire that burned the mountains just outside my town.

Day Three: Watching Colorado Burn

Peace Corps Prom 2013

Last night was Prom.  After a good week of preparing, the committee was able to get the party off without a hitch.  All volunteers were supposed to represent either their state or their country.  A few people came in red, white, and blue.  But most people came as their state.  Lots of college shirts.  Someone dressed up as the statue of liberty.  I wasn’t sure what to wear to represent Colorado, so I showed up in a sweater.  A few of us talked about bringing our lighters to represent the fires—but that seemed a little inappropriate.

The evening started off with a few surprises.  For starters, the food.  This will not sound amazing for anyone who has not been away from American food for long periods of time.  But we had real pizza, club sandwiches, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and so much more.  Once everyone got their share, we were treated to a special song.  Someone from our Staj auctioned off “An original Blues Song of your life” at the Skills Auction.  An older volunteer—and my fellow CBT mate—won that auction.  After that, we watched a five minutes movie thanking the staff.  We crowned our two members of our staff Prom King and Prom Queen.

Then the music started.

Two and half hours of dancing in horrible heat is a bit much.  The thing is, we are in the Peace Corps.  When you are used to going without showers for long periods of time and are completely comfortable talking about your bowel movements with everyone, it is much easy to feel comfortable in a pool of your own sweat.   Plus, it is amazing to just let loose for just a few hours.  To top it off, we were treating to a well-organized flash mob.

We are all heading back to our sites tomorrow (or are starting the slow journey back to our sites).  That’s why last night was so important.  We have been so busy integrating and making sure we are respecting in our societies.  That leaves a lot of pent up energy and expression.  Having ten days here in Marrakesh—and a prom to top it off—is the perfect way to release that energy.  I’ve heard many reasons for why we have this training.  To go back over what we are doing here.  To give people a break so they don’t ET.  To bring the Staj closer together.

I honestly think all of that play into the need for this training.

I may not be going straight back to site (basketball camp), but I am certainly ready to get down to some real work in site.

 

A Feeling I Cannot Shake

Something is off.  I’m doing well in my Final Site.  This is something else.  Not the strangeness of the place, the people, or the food.  This has to do with home.  I know most people would simply call it homesickness.  But that sounds to simple to me.  This is more.  To be honest…even if I Early Terminated right now and went back “home” to Colorado, I would have this feeling.  It’s an intense detachment.  I’m seeing all my connections fade.  I should have know this was inevitable…but was there even a way to accept it before?  I don’t believe so.

I don’t talk with friends back home very often.  When i do, I either feel a pang in my stomach or can’t find much to talk about.  The same, strange enough, is happening with my family.  Our conversations feel shorter.  Through no fault of anyone, all of the relationship’s I’ve built up for 23 years are fading.  I guess that is what happens when you are an ocean and and continent away.  It’s a pailful experience   I didn’t notice it until my kinda-relationship back home was put on hold.  This was also expected…but that doesn’t make it any easier.

I find myself relying on the support structure that I’ve built over the last ten weeks with other Peace Corps Volunteers.  Given, it is a strong support system.  I have no fear of going without advice and help.  It’s the transition of going from my usual support system to something entirely different that is getting at me.  I have these people who I regarded as immovable pillars in my life back home.  To know that I can not rely on the pillars in strange…and awkward.  I miss my friends.  I miss my family.  I miss my special someone.  I will always love them.  24 months and counting…

A poem I wrote today:

Inescapable 

My first month in the Peace Corps

I will continue to have extremely spotty internet connection until I am sworn in in late March and (cross you finger) placed in a site that actually has internet.  Until then, we will have to do with these long updates.  Luckily they come with lots of awesome pictures.

1. On warm days, my host dad spends hours basket weaving:

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2. The finished product is incredible:

 

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3. The view from the view reminds me of home.  I miss Colorado:

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4. Me with my host parents:

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5. The gang on a walk to “the lake” (It’s kinda just a river…but their language doesn’t differentiate)

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6. Kids playing by the river to the Darisha version of “Ring Around the Rosy.”  Their version involves brushing your teeth rather than mass death by plague.

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7. Art looking at the beautiful Mid-Atlas Mountains:

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8. People ride donkeys (hamal hashak) here all the time:

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9. A beautiful view from the town over:

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10. When it rains, it gets mighty cold.  No indoor heating means its 10 degrees colder inside.  We’ve already had several nights where we can see our breath as we go to sleep:

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11. A quick view of my small town:

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12. A view that makes this area seem not so poor:

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13. A beautiful sunset over my city:

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14. The Mosque in my town is easily the biggest building around:

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15. My host mother presenting couscous.  It’s a Friday special:

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It’s been a good couple of weeks since my last update.  It may be cold, but I am getting used to the routine that the cold creates.  As for being disconnected…it’s kinda nice to get away for a while.  I got my second shower of homestay today—which was nice.  We get one a week it seems.  The time is kind of flying.  In five weeks, it’ll be my 24th birthday and I will get my final destination—where I’ll spend my entire service.

I’ve been writing sooooo much.  I write at least one letter to America each day.  I’ve gotten to know the postmaster of this town quite well.  His name is Ali and he is intent on getting me to marry a Moroccan Woman (not gonna happen).  I also write in my leather-bound journal once or twice a day (thank you Sofia).  In the first four weeks here, I have covered more than 40 pages.  I honestly think I may fill up this entire (rather large) journal before I reach six month.  It is great writing practice.

I’ll update again the next time I have internet.

~Richard

 

Live from Philly

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The plane ride went smoothly.  When I got to Philadelphia International Airport, I met up with the four others from Colorado.  We split a fun ride into the heart of Philly.  I immediately dropped off my bags and went to orientation.  Fives hours of orientations while hungry and tired…At least I got to meet a lot of new people.  This has been a great start.  Although I still feel like the anti-social one.  That is kind of how I work though.

We leave the hotel at 9:00am tomorrow morning.  We immediatly get on a bus for JFK airport.  The 8 hour flight will bring us into Casablanca overnight.  Then, it’s straight to Rabat–the capital of Morocco.  It is going to be a long day of traveling.  But all I know is: 1 Day Down.  799 to go.

A Very Bronco Christmas

I wrote a lot today.  I’m not one for giving gifts.  I just can’t bring myself to buy things–even if it is for other people.  So I write personal letters.  I ended up writing four this morning.  I only have three left to write.  I’m going to do my best to write them tonight; I like the idea of resting during Christmas Eve and Christmas.  It’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas.

I’m watching the Broncos kick butt right now.  This will be their 10th win in a row.  I am going to miss watching them when I am in Morocco.  I mean, the game is fun.  But it’s a great way to spend time with my father.  I will definitely miss that.  Well, 22 days to go until I leave.  I’m trying to cross at least three items off my to-do list today.  Today it went from 41 to 37.  I need to keep it up.

Here are today’s poems.  They’re getting better.

4 Waves, 1 Finger

Don’t Give a Damn

I Can

Gun Control & Mental Health

I sent my letter regarding the Connecticut shooting to ten of my elected officials.  In the hope of keeping them accountable, today I am going to let you know where each of them stand.  I will follow up on this as more details become available.

Colorado State Representative Dave Young: The only person who has responded to my letter thus far.  It was a beautiful response.  His focus is threefold: Better mental health help in Colorado; limit gun ownership for those with serious mental illnesses; close the gun show loophole.  Although he does not agree with me on banning semi-automatic weapons and extended clips, that is okay.  That needs to be done at the Federal level anyway.
Colorado State Representative Steve Humphrey [No Public Comment or Response Yet]
Colorado State Senator Scott Renfroe [No Public Comment or Response Yet]
Colorado State Senator Glenn Vaad  [No Public Comment or Response Yet]
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper: He helped put together a much needed mental health expansion in Colorado–which needs to be approved by our state congress.  He also called for closing the Gun Show Loophole.  Hickenlooper called for “a debate” to take place regarding gun control, but has yet to release any specifics.

U.S. Representative Cory Gardner [No Public Comment or Response Yet]
U.S. Representative Jared Polis: Polis has also focused on closing the gun show loophole.  He is also very outspoken about increasing mental health help in Colorado.  No word yet on Gun Control.
U.S. Senator Michael Bennet  [No Public Comment or Response Yet]
U.S. Senator Mark Udall [No Public Comment or Response Yet]
President Barack Obama: Obama has been solidly in the pro-gun column his entire presidency.  Fortunately, the events in Connecticut are forcing him to the left.  He appears to be actively pushing for an assault weapons ban.  He has also has talked at length about mental health.  For a President, however, I expect action–not just talk.

I will update this list again in a week or two.  In the meantime, i suggest you write a letter to your elected officials about what you want to see changed.

~Richard

2012 in Review

I learned the first three letter of the Arabic Alphabet yesterday.  It’s going to be difficult, but I think I can pull it off.  I need a good way to fill my time over the next 29 days.  Spending a good deal of time learning a new language sounds like the best way to occupy myself.  Now I just need a good place to study.  My coffee place seems to have decided to start making shitty coffee….which kind of throws me for a loop.

For those of you who do not know, I am a Broncos fan.  I have lived my entire life in Northern Colorado.  This team has always been mine.  It has been an incredible season.  Even though I am more of a baseball fan, this is hard not to get excited about this season.  I mean, nine wins in a row.  Come on!  I’m starting to think about how far they can go….and I hate that I won’t be in the country for the conference championships or the Superbowl.  I will have to find a way to watch them with fellow Peace Corps volunteers.

Today’s writing is actually my year in review. I do this every year.  Same 40 questions.  Feel free to steal the questions and fill it out for yourself.  It’s a great way to reflect.

2012 in Review